Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Magazines as Archetypes

My local library, not far from Shakespeare's Bardonia (NY), is a wonderful place, boasting meters of magazine display space that most news agents would die for.  I guess the top 300 ABC magazines, more or less, are available in full frontal display with ample space in-between. And, just in case you miss the logo, the magazine names are printed undeneath. While I had to bend a little to review some of the exhibited magazines, most are at eye-level.

Although I spend my waking hours chasing digital in all its cross-platform splendor, I'm happy to take a break and spend a couple of hours browsing the racks. The magazine are listed in alphabetical order, left to right, so it's rather simple for me in my first stroll to focus on the magazines where I have served as editor, publisher or had some business involvement.

I start with my favorite magazine Bicycling, where I cut my teeth, and remind myself to congratulate Rodale friends on the new design. Everything inside, though familiar, is brighter and more open than I remember. The broader themes are still there, including the lament for Campagnola, the northern Italian component manufacturer, about the challenge of maintaining the soul of their design in a commodity market. I remember having a similar conversation with Mr. Campagnola almost twenty years ago. This is a narrative worth telling and retelling and helps elevate a magazine above a nominal how-to disposition. Magazines represent culture as well as advice.

This survey is mainly fun. I notice, without cringing, that the November
2011 issues of Car & Driver and Road & Track sport the same BMW M5 on the cover, though from different perspectives. While this might be a major blunder within the editorial ranks, from a consumer perspective it doesn't really matter so much. Likewise, if Woman's Day and Better Homes & Gardens have almost interchangeable Thanksgiving covers, no one should lose her job.

I can't remember how many cover meetings I have sat in on where the primary concern about a cover subject is differentiation from the competition. This is a worthy conversation to have, of course, as it keep us sharp and in the game. But as we have come to understand, magazines are also brands or from a Jungian perspective--I'm a student--archetypes that embody universal ideas. And this gives magazines staying power. It will be interesting to see whether this archetypal power of the brand migrates fully into the digital space. That archetypes also resonate in our personal and collective unconscious suggest brands will remain intact. Psychology doesn't say much about CPMs.

I look at Maxim magazine and remember the concern we had at Men's Health International when we learned of the Dennis launch. Angst aside, I never had much doubt that a magazine that focuses on health and sexuality would live to tell the tale. Maxim still has a beauty bathing herself under a garden hose but Men's Health wins the prize.  

I am conducting my library research on and after Veteran's Day and being a veteran myself, bring a certain bias to the effort. Out of curiosity I looked for titles in the appropriate categories that might contain articles about our various wars, the military in general, or the effect of serving on the psyche. My review wasn't scientific but I  didn't find any obvious coverage. Except for the November issue of Men's Health.

At first "The Signature Wound" by Bob Drury bothered me because I thought this might be another way for MH to get the penis into the conversation. It was not. Vietnam maimed a lot of men but nothing like what improvised explosive devices (IEDs) do to a soldier's "junk." According to Drury, if you lose a nose or an eye in combat you will be compensated $50,000 for each. If you lose your penis, nothing. Apparently the Department of Defense does not recognize that the loss of genitalia is worth compensation. Also, no price tag for a shattered psyche.

One percent of Americans serve in the military or have family connections to someone who does. The other 99% should read this article.

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